China · Taiwan

Is York or Yildizes a name?

In Taiwan, I’ve come across a lot of unusual English names. Some are weird, some seem improvised, while some seem plain wrong. In my company, there’s a Jelly, a Double, and even a Fatman. Making it even more interesting is that some of these aren’t accidental, but deliberate and an attempt to assert some individuality, I guess. However, after reading this article, I think Hong Kongers take the cake in weird English names. Some are plain ridiculous with absolutely no pretense of even trying to resemble a proper name – Decemb? Yildizes?. Of course, some do manage to be kind of cool like Amus and York. However Taiwan doesn’t need to worry, it still leads when it comes to names for the weirdest pinyin used for Chinese names. Pinyin refers to the use of English letters to spell out a Chinese word or name. If you’re wondering, the name “pyng” in that article is pronounced “ping” and is usually spelt that way in China or Hong Kong.

BBC Magazine has a decent article on Sima Qian (司馬遷), China’s most famous historian who lived over 2,000 years ago. While Sima Qian is well-known for his writings in their own right, he’s also well-known for what happened to him for daring to speak out in an imperial court. Basically, he had his balls chopped off by order of the emperor for defending a Chinese general who had surrendered to the enemy in battle. Sima Qian chose this over death, which was actually the honorable option, based on a strong conviction about finishing his court historian work. This is unfortunately a striking example of why in Chinese society, there’s a prevalent attitude of not daring to speak bad news, especially to a superior such as at work. This can even be extended to voicing one’s opinions, especially when it goes against popular opinion. Another negative cultural trait that poor Sima Qian’s castration is an example of is of successful people being punished for jealousy or other reasons (Yuan Chonghuan 袁崇煥 a famous Chinese general was another one; what happened to him was even more gruesome). After all, one reason Sima Qian’s defense of the disgraced general angered the emperor so much was that, besides going against the prevailing sentiment, it shifted attention to one of the emperor’s relatives who had also suffered similar battlefield failures. In the end, we can all be grateful that SimaQian chose his work and persona disgrace over his own honor. Sima Qian proved to have the biggest balls of all, even if his real ones were cut off.


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